Tom Adair’s debut solo exhibition was shown at Metro Gallery in September of 2018. A significant transition from his early career as a graffiti artist, this body of work consists of suburban houses and streetscapes, rendered dot by dot with airbrush, using a technique that harkens back to the Pointillists. Each work is then adorned with a number of different coloured neon lights (usually three). The lights emphasize the sense that we are outside of these idyllic homes, a feeling which is bolstered by the monochromatic palette, imbuing the paintings with a sterility and coldness. The use of airbrush, (a more refined version of aerosol and a medium inevitably associated with the graffiti artist and the outsider) to represent polite suburban residences, conveys a sense of longing for the idyllic home specifically, and acceptance generally. Adair thereby suffuses the idea of the graffiti artist with a sense of pathos and tragedy. More closely examined, however, these paintings are still more nuanced and complex.
The dotted airbrush technique is intriguing in that it is simultaneously representational and abstract. The mind, almost at will, can flick between viewing a house and looking at a jumble of dots. The illusion is revealed to us at the same time that it deceives us. Adair seems to be suggesting, then, that the idyllic home and the perfect family life that goes with it doesn’t really exist, and that the desire for it is vacuous. The work is essentially about exterior appearance as opposed to veritable substance.